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The Useful Idiots of Osama bin Laden

Patrick J. Buchanan

May 21 2003

Columnists and commentators now busily berating the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a feckless ally, or even an enemy in the War on Terror, should ask themselves a simple question: If the Saudi royal house falls, who and what do they think would replace it?

Have we not been down this road before?

The Best and Brightest of the New Frontier of JFK were certain that the only obstacle to victory in Vietnam was President Diem. So, they effected a coup in which Diem was ousted and assassinated. The result: A 10-year involvement that would lead to 58,000 American dead and the loss of Vietnam, our greatest defeat in the Cold War.

Under Jimmy Carter, America undermined two flawed friends, General Somoza and the Shah of Iran. In their place we got the Sandinistas and the Ayatollah. Do we really wish to repeat this idiocy in Saudi Arabia, a friend of 60 years that sits on the world's largest oil reserves?

If so, we are going about it the right way, the same way we did with Diem, Somoza and the Shah – badgering and bedeviling the Saudi regime, undermining it, by suggesting it does not measure up to our standards of democracy.

And, indeed, it does not measure up to the standards of Iowa or Vermont. But what Arab government does? And, again, if the Saudi government goes, who and what do we think will replace it?

With the triple bombing of the gated communities in Riyadh, where wealthy Saudis live as well as Westerners, we should ask ourselves: Who perpetrated these massacres? Why? Who would inherit the Saudi oil reserves should the royal house fall? Who is most desirous that the Riyadh regime of Prince Abdullah be brought down?

Answer: The men who perpetrated these atrocities are al-Qaida or its allies, whose goal is to replace the Saudi royal house with an Islamic regime that would make the Iran of the ayatollahs look like Denmark.

Should they succeed, not only will they have control of the world's greatest oil reserves, they would rapidly spread their Islamic revolution to all the emirates and sheikdoms of the Gulf, and roll up every pro-American ruler from Kuwait to Qatar.

The United States would have to accept militant Islam's control of the world's oil reserves or mount a military invasion to recapture the oil fields upon which the prosperity of the West depends. The fall of the House of Saud would thus not only be a strategic disaster for the United States, it would be an economic calamity for the West.

Is this what we want? Again, the choice in Riyadh is not between the House of Saud and Howard Dean, it is between the House of Saud and Osama bin Laden.

Those democracy-mongers who are today mindlessly attacking the Saudis are the useful idiots of Osama bin Laden, as their fathers were the useful idiots of Ho Chi Minh.

Since King Saud met FDR in 1945 after Yalta, Riyadh has hitched its wagon to America's star. The ties between us have enormously benefited both nations. In Bush I's Gulf War, to recapture the oil fields of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia was our strongest ally and helped to pay much of the cost of the war. In the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the Saudis permitted the overflight of their territory by U.S. bombers and cruise missiles. Our NATO ally Turkey refused us the same permission.

In the run-up to war on Iraq, Saudi Arabia increased oil production to prevent a price explosion that could have caused a recession in the West. While the Saudis have sought to maximize the national income from their sole national asset, that is how all nations behave.

After all, America demanded hard cash for guns and munitions when Britain was alone fighting Hitler, up until Britain was tapped out and had nothing more to pay. Only then did FDR come up with Lend Lease.

Who is behind these attacks on Saudi Arabia? Many Americans are sincerely appalled at the treatment of Saudi women and Riyadh's denial of religious freedom. Others are angry that the Saudis support the intifada. Others note that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9-11 were Saudi citizens. And all of this is true.

But why did Osama select Saudis for the assignment, if not to drive a wedge between us? What Arab nation is not opposed to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and mistreatment of the Palestinians? And can anyone think that any revolution that overthrows the Saudi royal house will be committed to religious pluralism or the ideals of feminism?

Like it or not, we are in this boat together. We are the twin targets of al-Qaida. And if the Saudi end of the dinghy sinks, how long do we think ours will stay afloat in the Gulf?

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